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The key to self-motivation

We are experiencing a crisis of motivation. Only 15% of workers worldwide feel motivated to do their work. Do you have a list of tasks that you know need to get done, but don’t feel motivated to begin? Don’t be drawn in by the software, apps and hacks which promise to make you more productive. If you want real change, it’s time to return to some basic ideas.


The science of motivation


Behind every study on motivation and productivity is a simple rule of human behaviour:


If an action brings you a good result, you will repeat the action.


Some of these actions are normal behaviours that we don’t really think about. Let’s say you go for a run before work one morning. Now picture the two scenarios.


1. You really enjoy the run, it’s not too difficult and you’re left feeling energetic and positive about the day.


2. You don’t enjoy the run, it’s too difficult and you’re left feeling disappointed and negative about the day.


In the first scenario, you’ll probably feel motivated to repeat the action and go on a run again in a few days. In the second, you’re going to feel demotivated by your negative experience and you might not go on a run again, even if you think you should.


If you’re a salesperson, a big part of your role involves making calls to potential clients. Imagine that one of those calls goes really badly - your prospect is rude and hangs up on you. How motivated will you feel to make the next call? Even if you have to continue making the calls, the likelihood is you’re going to feel less motivated because of this - you might do less preparation for your next call, or be less friendly and helpful when you’re on the phone.


What does this mean for our motivation? If we ever need to complete a task that has brought us more negative than positive results in the past, we are not going to feel motivated. Instead, we are likely to distract ourselves from and put off that task.


The solution


We need to change our processes and attitudes so that the tasks we want to complete always bring more good than bad results. The top tips below will help you to do this.


1. Set small goals. Smaller goals are easier to achieve. Instead of large, unattainable goals (I will bring in $1m in sales this month), set small attainable goals focused on your own activity (Today, I will have 3 useful conversations with prospects). If you fail to meet a large unattainable goal you feel negative feelings of disappointment, which demotivates and stops you from trying so hard next time. By setting small goals, the good feeling you get from meeting your goal one day will drive you to try and achieve more the following day.


2. Reward yourself when you achieve a goal. Work out what it is you value, and gift it to yourself when you achieve your goals. It could be as little as a 5 minute break with a colleague if you do 25 minutes of focused work, or treating yourself to a coffee after you’ve made 10 prospecting calls. Rewarding yourself makes you feel good, and makes you more likely to want to achieve your goal again.


3. Seek recognition from others. For many of us, recognition from others is a positive consequence that motivates us to do more. Try keeping a record of your activity, the goals you achieve, or tasks you tick off so that you can share them with a manager, colleague, or friend. Don’t be afraid to ask for recognition.


4. Invest in your skill set. When you don’t have the skill set to deliver on your goals, there are going to be negative results. For example, prospecting phone calls are less likely to go well if you haven’t taken the time to evaluate your call script and process. Take the time to upskill yourself. You could ask people for feedback, look out for training sessions to attend, and reflect on and adjust your own approach.


5. Invest in your self esteem. We can tend to put ourselves down when we do badly. This makes us feel even worse, and means we’re less likely to try again. Be aware and notice how you talk to yourself. Is your self talk harsh and unforgiving? “I can’t believe you could be so idiotic” “You are useless at this.” Try to be more positive when you talk to yourself and approach new tasks with an open mind.


Put these five top tips into place and keep focusing on improving your motivation to reach your goals.


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